Trademark Protection & the Internet
Before the internet boom, a business that marketed and sold to clients who lived exclusively in the town in which it was located may not have needed the protection of a federal trademark registration. Of course, a trademark attorney would argue that no service or product remains local in the United States even before the advent of the internet. But now that a business, every business, MUST advertise via the internet to thrive and even survive, the protection of a federal registration is also a MUST.
Businesses are no longer quietly tucked away in small town U.S.A or can no longer pretend they are. Small locally based businesses share storefront on the internet with businesses from all over the United States and the world. Choosing your company’s name, distinguishing your company from other businesses, and protecting your mark with a federal registration are all extremely important.
Don’t let this happen to you…
Let’s imagine a scenario. Your business makes widgets and you have sold them locally at a retail store for three years under the mark WOW. Now, you decide that you want to sell them on the internet to make more money as everyone who visits from out of town loves your widgets and wants to continue to buy them when they return home.
The domain name www.wowwidgets.com is available. You are excited and buy it. You make lots of sales off of your website and hand out business cards with the web address. A year after your internet site went live, your sales have doubled.
Suddenly and without explanation, sales drop. You do some research and have your web manager do some research. You speak with one of your biggest customers and she tells you how much she loves your new website and look. You have no new website and look. A competitor has www.wow.com and is selling the same widgets.
You call a trademark attorney to shut down the competitor. The trademark attorney informs you that the competitor has a federal registration for the mark WOW. He further tells you that without a registration yourself this will be an uphill battle in court and could cost thousands of dollars. Your thousands of dollars dried up when the registration owner took all of your clients. You are forced to shut down the internet site.
What you should have done…
You should apply for a federal registration for the mark WOW as soon as possible whether or not you are on the internet yet. You never know when that opportunity will arise and you want to be ready for it. Your trademark attorney will conduct a search of the mark and make sure that your company’s mark WOW is clear.
When and if a competitor starts a website and uses a confusingly similar trademark, your company will most likely be able to stop such use with a relatively inexpensive and efficient cease and desist letter citing your registration. If a letter doesn’t work (though it most likely will), a federal judge can stop the competitor based on your company’s registration. Then your company can continue its booming internet business.
Are you on the internet sharing storefront with corporate America? Are you protected? Get protection today! Don’t let the above scenario happen to you.